Tim's Reviews > Move Under Ground

Move Under Ground by Nick Mamatas
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's review
Jan 12, 11

bookshelves: adventure, horror, weirdness, 2011
Read from January 11 to 12, 2011

Confession: Just before I started reading this book I'd inwardly decided that this would be the last non-Lovecraft Cthulhu themed book I would read. Cthulhu has of late become a cute, and cuddly icon of ironic horror, and the original miasma of unknown dread the character was supposed to have has--for me--become totally lost amongst the internet memes, and cartoon depictions. Along comes MOVE UNDER GROUND.

MOVE UNDER GROUND has very little, if any, of the kitsch and wink/nod that you'd expect from something this thematically high-concept; Jack Kerouac and the Beats vs. Cthulhu. I was expecting a "cool-daddy-o" stream of consciousness road-trip across America ending with a super-heroic Kerouac bare-knuckle brawling with an elder god in a coffee, I couldn't have gotten more different experience.

MOVE UNDER GROUND reads a lot like a lost Kerouac novel; it's filled with the bodhisattva philosophy that populates Kerouac's actual novels, and while it may not be pitch-perfect, it hits the right notes at the right times. It also contains some very good horror writing, as Kerouac and his dharma bums travel across a nightmare apocalypse America that has fallen under the thrall of Cthulhu and the Old Ones. Beatniks and hipsters remain untouched by the taint of the elder gods, but the straighter the suit, the more insectoid and deformed they become. The country is transformed into a wild landscape of lurid horror-- trains become giant white worms crawling the rails, small town folk shout and kill and revel in death, translucent tentacles shroud the sky, worming their way into the hearts and minds of all the squares.

*maybe spoilers*
Kerouac is his Sal Paradise character here, seemingly just along for the ride, observing, vacillating between desire and detachment, pushed by the Buddha's palm toward his final destination. Neal Cassady is a vibrating grifter, making off-page deals with terrible gods for terrible power all in the name of truth and adventure. Seeking the role of the hero, but often becoming the heel. Burroughs is played for laughs, mostly. A reedy junky, detached and almost as insect-like as the shoggoths he fights.
*maybe spoilers*

Just when I thought all of the horror had been drained from the dead dreamer, Mamatas found a way to make Cthulhu scary again.
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